As a whole, Americans care about improving their health. Smoking rates are down, sales of nutritional supplements are up, and restaurants with low-calorie fare are thriving. But there's one area where too many of us still stumble: following our prescriptions.
The American Heart Association reports that 12 percent of American adults fail to fill some prescriptions; 12 percent don't take a medication after bringing it home; 22 percent take a smaller dosage than prescribed; and nearly 30 percent stop taking their medicine before it runs out. Analysts believe that those numbers may not be accurate as many patients lie about whether they're taking their drugs.
The end result: a deadly toll. A 2011 study jointly produced by the American Society on Aging and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists concluded that missed medications contribute to as many as 125,000 deaths annually . It is a growing problem and the fact is, if you aren't taking your medication you're not getting any better and most likely you are getting worse.
What are the excuses people use and how can you get your elderly family member or loved one to take their medications? Below you will find the four of the most common excuses people use to justify failing to take medications properly - and advice on how to combat them:
1. "I feel fine. Why do I even need this?"
Those with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, or who are in the early stages of Type 2 diabetes often feel well because those conditions alone don't carry any outward symptoms. Those that have successfully managed a chronic condition for months or even years may believe they've got things under control and decide to stop taking their prescriptions.
These diseases are called "silent killers" for a reason and though they may feel wonderful today that does not mean that their medication is not needed.
- Start by going with them the next time they have a doctor's appointment and have their physician explain what the medication is for, the potential consequences of not taking it, and under what circumstances it would be okay to stop using it.
- The answers can inform and empower you should your loved one attempt to use that excuse in the future.
2. "I forgot."
If you're loved one is taking multiple medicines and frequently misses one or more, try asking their doctor to prioritize the pills. Staying on top of a depression prescription, for example, may be more vital than keeping up with a statin for high cholesterol; in this case, the absence of the former may influence neglecting the latter. Also ask the physician to look for alternative medications that only need to be taken once a day or come in patch form.
Most doctors are willing to negotiate a plan that fits with your lifestyle but in order to help, you must be honest with them about when and if you are able to take your medication.
3."I feel worse when I take the pills." There's no doubt many common medications have unpleasant side effects, from incontinence or constipation to dry mouth, muscle aches and reduced libido. But these side effects do not affect everyone equally. If a medication is causing you or your elderly loved one discomfort it can be tempting to just stop taking your medication all together.
- Speak to the physician. There is no need to suffer in silence. Your doctor can get creative and work with you to find a medication or combination of medicines that will help treat your condition without the unpleasant side effects
Similarly, if you don't believe a medication is improving your condition, say so. Faking it doesn't do you any good. The sooner you tell your doctor the faster they can start working on a solution.
4."I can't afford the prescription." In an AARP survey of adults 50 and older, 40 percent of respondents who hadn't filled one or more prescriptions said cost was the main reason. Concerns over drug prices lead some patients to cut pills in half, take them every other day or finish one round and avoid getting a refill.
While limiting the impact on your wallet, the health costs of such practices can be high. Diabetics who reduce their insulin dose, for example, could have seizures or go into a coma. People with a stent need anti-coagulants daily. And those on blood thinners must take their drugs precisely for them to work.
If you or an elderly love one is struggling to afford your medication bills try the following:
- Tell your pharmacist, they may be able to suggest a generic or lower-cost alternative, perhaps one your doctor isn't aware of.
- If that's not an option, your pharmacist or physician may be able to direct you to local, state or national agencies, or programs.
- Visit sites like needymeds.org that provide assistance and can direct you to the program that will work for you.
Whether the reason is forgetfulness, painful side effects, or limited resources failing to take your medication as prescribed can lead to disaster. We here at Synergy HomeCare can make it a little easier to stay on track. Our caregivers can go to the drugstore for you to pick up prescriptions; they can offer medication reminders and can verify that your loved one has taken their medication as prescribed. Please call us today to find out how we can help!